Building focus for a better life

We are now living in a world wherein we are fed with information, constantly, in various forms. There is just way too much of information that we are exposed to, often distracting us from our to-do, goals, objectives and the likes.

Let me give you an example that you might relate to. Imagine this.

The crucial meeting which you’re attending has the department leader describing the yearly targets and plans with minute details. The room is full of people nodding their heads and soaking in every word spoken by her. But you find yourself zoning in and out, thoughts of yesterday’s sports final, that grocery shopping list and your friend’s upcoming birthday crossing your mind too frequently. You are jerked out of your chair when she asks you a question and you fumble. ‘Where’s your focus?’ she exclaims. Sounds familiar?

Something similar used to happen to me during my school days. During the class, I would often find myself looking out the window at the green fields (yes, my school was in a remote location at the time) only to have my teacher asking me to stand up and explain what he/she had just taught. 

And if that’s not the case, you’re frequently distracted, losing track of time and ultimately leading to irritation for not completing the task at hand at the cost of quality. Delay in anything that you do is also a sad byproduct of losing focus.

With sounds, chatter, visual stimulation and the incessant beep of the mobile phone, it’s really not easy to achieve focus. But once you learn to do it, you can learn better, accomplish a lot more work in lesser time, give justice to your family time and improves your overall performance at work. Undivided, unwavering focus on whatever you’re doing, whether it’s about creating a business document, a proposal, cooking, painting or playing with your child, yields unbelievable benefits.

All too often, we hear the common retort “But I’m doing too many things, I’ve got so much on my mind” Well, we all have, don’t we? But unless we deliberately train our mind and learn to focus, it’s never going to be possible. How then, can we do that?

  • Monitor your mind and the thoughts that keep fleeting through it. Be aware of the triggers of a mind straying from its core work. Catch it in its act and pull it back to the core. With practice, you can focus more and stray less.
  • Meditate early in the morning or whenever you have time. Meditation and deep breathing ( repetitions of cycles of 3 seconds of inhalation and 4 seconds of exhalation) keep the mind focused. Imagine how a batsman plays for hours on end without losing his stance. Imagine how a surgeon stands up on his feet and works on his patient’s heart or brain, a single error or which can cost his life.
  • Follow work lists. One work at a time and nothing else. If you’re at preparing the balance sheet, keep the phone away. Resist temptation to check the mail popping up in your inbox. Finish the task completely, or at least as much as possible and then turn to the next one. Being prepared with all the needed tools, information and documents allows seamless, undistracted work.
  • In the garb of multi tasking, we tend to keep open multiple windows on the screen flicking one for the other every few minutes. We attend phones amidst meetings, check messages and reply while playing with kids. Which of these tasks do you think gets completed with utmost quality and in time? None.
  • Trace what distracts you – sounds, phone, movements or thoughts? Work on keeping them at bay. Work , read or study when there’s no noise, early morning or late night. Find a room where there’s no noise. Switch off the unwanted devices or put them on silent mode. Reduce distractions as much as possible. Avoid unscheduled meeting with people when you are at crucial work. It’s perfectly alright to instruct everyone not to disturb you while you’re at work. Including kids. Keeping the lights, temperature and air circulation to optimum levels have also been found to impact focus.
  • If you know you get tired after working for a few minutes, keep a tab and take a conscious break for a minute. Reduce this time gradually. Our mind doesn’t readily accept training, it takes a tough stand for it to relent.
  • Living in the past and wallowing in it, worrying about the future or thinking of possibilities and chances lost, all leads to destroying your today. Live in the moment. Be mindful. Soak in every moment fully. Let not the mind wander helter-skelter. Keep a tab on straying thoughts and pull them back if you find them wandering.
  • Schedule your day the previous night. Allocate judicious time for tasks. Prioritize everything that you do and don’t forget to keep some time for yourself. Tasks do tend to overlap and there will always be a lag time before you pick the next. But too much of haphazard work doesn’t let much to be accomplished.
  • Our mind and body need frequent breaks during high performance tasks. Allow yourself some quiet time. Avoid mingling with others when you know you can’t gather yourself back in time. Reward yourself when you achieve focus and complete tasks. This motivates the mind to repeat its feat again and again.
  • The ancient sages and holy-men knew the randomness of the mind and also the ways to keep it on a leash. They lived with mindfulness and had full control over their senses. A wayward body and mind lead to a mangled mass of incomplete tasks and leads to frustration. Have a good night’s sleep. Too many people spend sleepless hours at night thinking about the next day and then find themselves dozing and dreaming in the day. Follow a strict regimen of sleep, exercise and meditation.
  • Try to be active during the day. Move a lot. Pace up and down as you speak on the phone. Take the steps instead of the elevator. Mind your steps. Play a sport that requires you to focus, like chess, basketball, table tennis or archery. It helps sharpen your focus.
  • Being too hungry or overeating both result in losing focus. Eat well throughout the day in bite sized portions to keep your body nourished. Drink water and attend nature’s call regularly. Ignoring your body’s distress calls can also cause poor focus.
  • Pick up a playlist with tracks that have music made specifically for focusing/concentration. Spotify and Youtube have several such playlists. My favorite one is the Productive Morning that you should definitely check out.

With limited time at hand and too many things to accomplish, being focused is not just a necessity, it’s the only option.

What other tricks have you found that has worked for you? Take a moment and comment below.

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